November 15, 2008

More speculation

Not 5 minutes after I made that post, I saw this article, that suggests that the Cubs might be interested in Randy Johnson. I'm kind of iffy on this - he's 45 and has those nagging back problems. He would be a good replacement for Marquis, but then we would have to move Marquis (who is NOT going to the bullpen). Marquis could probably be flipped to another team, now that he only has a year left on his contract (and does have the innings-eater rep). Still, he's owed 8 million or so, so that's probably going to be a sunk cost one way or another (we might have to trade for salary). If we could make him part of a RF trade that was more of a dollar-for-dollar type situation that would be nice, but I can't think of anyone that would be a good partner there off the top of my head.

Bye bye Kerry Wood

The Cubs traded Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg yesterday, and announced that Kerry wood will not be returning to the team. To many Cubs fans, this was a double slap in the face. I was never a *huge* Wood fan, but I did like him a lot. I don't really follow the line of thinking that "Wood is the face of this franchise" (If it is anyone, it has been Zambrano for the last few years). Wood definitely has some partial 'face of the francise'-ness working for him, but it's more of the bittersweet memories of what might have been, and all of the years of "If Prior and Wood are healthy..." following the 2003 season, which is not great to dwell upon. I felt like that page was finally turned when we finally let Prior go. Wood has been great for how he stuck with the franchise (and felt like he owed something to it) and managed to stay classy with the media (unlike Prior, who may have had a legitimate beef with the Cubs but did a pretty good job of burning his bridges with the organization well before he was finally let go).

At first, I wasn't that surprised when Hendry said that Wood wasn't coming back - I assumed that we had offered him a short-term contract and that Wood had turned it down, since some team is probably going to back the money truck up to him this offseason. However, that does not seem to be the case, and it sucks. From Wood:

... he did say he would've been amenable to staying and "would have done anything" to stay a Cub. The Cubs told him to go get a three- or four-year deal for more money, but Wood said he would've agreed to a one-year deal to stay.

This just a day after we heard Hendry insinuating that the number of years on the contract was what was keeping them apart, and that Wood 'deserved' a four year deal from some other team.

Look - Carlos Marmol is REALLY freaking good, and if Wood was around, it's likely that Marmol would not be the closer. Not that that's a bad thing in my eyes, but I wonder if the front office is either blinded by the line of thought that

-Marmol is our best pitcher, so he should be the closer, and there would be no role for Wood

or (hopefully)

-We need the money to go after Dempster/other starters or a new LH right fielder.

This is not great logic though - even if we resigned Woody, we needed another quality bullpen arm or two to shore up what was kind of rocky for us last season. Which brings us to Kevin Gregg.

The Marlins pulled off a heist with this trade - Gregg is not good. If he's our 7th inning guy next year, that would be okay. But, as someone said on BCB or GROTA (can't remember), Gregg is basically Bob Howry redux. He has closing experience, but he's not really a elite relief pitcher that you can rely on ala Marmol, Wood, K-Rod, those kinds of guys. If he is in the mix with Gaudin and (hopefully) Wuertz as the second tier bullpen guys on the team, then it's sort of an okay trade. But if he becomes the new closer, this was a freaking terrible idea. I think the Cubs are smart enough to put Marmol in the 9th (even if that's not the best way to deploy him) and are just keeping him around for insurance, but I would like more of a sure thing to be our #2 in the bullpen. For most of last season it was just Wood and Marmol as our top guys, and that was it (and even then there was a 2 month stretch where one of the two of them was ineffective, and the rest of our bullpen strained to carry the load). Of course, everyone wants a top-to-bottom awesome bullpen, but that's a luxury few teams have/can afford (there's a reason why most of these guys are pitching middle relief). Plus, Ceda projects to be a good reliever down the road, and we traded one year of Gregg (a 7th inning guy, tops IMHO) for 6 years of Ceda, who will probably be a 7th inning guy but has upside to be an elite setup man/closer down the road.

Anyway, here's where we are right now. I don't think the Peavy trade is going to happen for us OR Atlanta, and re-signing Dempster seems more likely if we're not throwing money at Wood. I don't think (though this is probably wishful thinking) that Hendry is going to go for a FA right fielder - he's probably going to find some way to spin Pie and some other pieces (Marshall, Cedeno, etc) for someone else's RF that might come on the market (Al mentioned Dye the other day on BCB, which was the first decent idea that I've seen come out from over there in several weeks). I just don't think that Ibanez or Abreu will be worth it (too old), though I might be OK with a Milton Bradlet signing. An Adam Dunn signing would be FREAKING AWESOME, but I don't think it's very likely (whether or not the org wanted to try to play him in RF or try to move Soriano to RF). I think a trade is more probable, with DeRosa as the fallback option in RF. I'm becoming more skeptical of a Furcal deal now too, given the market there will probably be for him (though I still think the Cubs should try and get him). This is the way I think things will shake out now

LF Soriano
SS Riot
1B Lee
3B Ramirez
C Soto
RF DeRosa
2B Fontenot
CF Dome/Johnson

B Blanco (back on a new deal, though K Hill would be cheaper)
B Dome/Johnson
B Cedeno
B Hoffpauir
B Pie

1 Zambrano
2 Harden
3 Dempster
4 Lilly
5 Marquis

CL Marmol
B Gregg
B Samardzija
B Gaudin
B Wuertz
B Cotts
LR Marshall

I would not be surprised if Pie gets spun off for a reliever or something in spring training (some sort of quality lefty?) if we can't work out a RF trade partner.

November 02, 2008

The offseason, part 1 (of however many I feel like)

Now that the playoffs are finally over (congrats to the Phillies by the way), the Hot Stove is heating up. Lots of trades/signings/etc have been bandied about, but let's get a few things straight.

  1. Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano are going to be Cubs in 2009. They all have no trade clauses, and Lee (the most tradeable), loves being a Cub, and I do not see any reason for him to go to, say, the SF Giants (a Lee for Cain swap seems to be one of the most popular wishful thinking scenarios running around). I wouldn't mind seeing some lineup shifts (especially if my scenario below comes to pass), mainly that I would like to see Lee batting 2nd or 5th/6th, and Soriano batting 3rd or 5th/6th.

  2. Felix Pie has no future within this organization, which sucks, because I think that he will be a productive player, if the team would only give him a chance. But a combination of Lou's lack of faith in him and Fukudome's contract status (and handedness) are going to squeeze him out of the lineup. He is out of options, so the Cubs either have to trade him, or keep him around as a 5th outfielder, which I don't see happening.

  3. We will not be able to sign both Wood and Dempster. Ths Cubs will likely stand relatively pat for next year, but these are the two big names leaving the team. I don't think the Cubs have enough trading chips to fill some of the holes they have (namely, a Real SS or RF), so that will likely be the only big FA pickup this year, and I think they'll only have money to keep one of them. Dempster will be the linchpin of this I think - if another team offers him 5 years I think he'll take it (the Cubs will likely only go to 3, maybe 4). If Demp goes I think the Cubs resign Wood. Both players have expressed a desire to remain in Chicago, but hometown discounts are only as good as the difference in the contracts that other teams are offering, and there is a LOT of money out there. My gut tells me that we do manage to keep one of them though.

Now that that's out of the way, here's my (very simple) plan for the offseason.

  1. Sign Rafael Furcal

That's pretty much it, plus or minus the minor moves that teams usually make (bullpen stuff, usually). This solves several problems

  1. It moves Soriano out of the leadoff spot. I really think Soriano should be the 3-hitter on this team - he has too much power to be hitting leadoff, and his speed is still great in front of our other bats (Ramirez, Soto).

  2. It moves Theriot out of the SS position. Riot is a scrappy guy, but he is a 2B, not a SS. He just doesn't have the arm/range to be a full-time shortstop. He's still OK at second base, and I think the luster has finally worn off of Ronny Cedeno for me. Plus, if we get someone to play RF in place of DeRosa, we would have some trade bait in Riot, Fontenot, and Cedeno. Riot is overrated by pretty much everyone, so he would be great to include in a deal.

  3. We finally get a real leadoff man. I guess see #1 above. Furcal was the one that got away 3 years ago, and I think the team does still want him. The only red flag is some of his injury issues, which are troubling....

What I think/hope happens is that Dempster leaves, Wood stays, and we sign Furcal and a FA bullpen arm. Then the team would shake out like this.

SS Furcal
1B Lee
LF Soriano
3B Ramirez
C Soto
RF DeRosa
CF/2B Dome/Fontenot
2B/CF Johnson/Riot

B K. Hill
B Hoffpauir
B Cedeno
B Dome/Johnson
B Riot/Fontenot
(B: Pie?)

1 Zambrano
2 Lilly
3 Harden
4 Marquis
5 Marshall

CL Wood
S Marmol
S Samardzija
BP Wuertz
BP Cotts
BP Gaudin
BP Guzman

Others in Minors
Rich Hill
Randy Wells
Kevin Hart
Jose Ascanio

Clearly, either Cedeno or Pie (or Hoffpauir) is going to be gone - there just isn't enough space. I'm not a big Hoffpauir believer, but I think the team won't want to break camp without a pinch hitter with some power (LBR notwithstanding).

Bonus speculation
Since, in this scenario, Pie or Cedeno needs to be traded, we have some small chips to go after someone. The biggest speculation right now is that we might go after Peavy. Cedeno, Pie, and Marshall could be enough to get it done, but I don't really like offering up more than that many. Peavy is quite good though, and I'm not really sure I share the concerns of some others about his injury history. Depending on the package, I think it's a risk worth taking. We could pick up another dime-a-dozen backup SS with some glove to backup Furcal/Riot if this goes through. Maybe even including Riot in the trade might push this over the top.

I would love to trade for Matt Cain or Brian Roberts, but I don't think we have enough to get it done for those guys. The only other free agent name that intrigues me is Derek Lowe, who has had a pretty interesting career. I'm not sure I would want him unless we knew that Riot would not be playing SS though - it would nullify some of the value we would get from all of his ground balls.